scarf / muffler

meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, a scarf and a muffler are two different things here in Japan. People wear mufflers only when the weather is (very) cold, and scarfs are too thin to keep your neck warm in winter. I've checked some English dictionaries, including the ones on WR, and a couple of dicitonaries I have suggest that the term 'muffler' is just an old-fashioned version of 'scarf'. One example is Collins Cobuild for Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, which says "A muffler is the same as a scarf [OLD-FASHIONED]". Also, a book written by a British writer about British English I have says that Brits use "scarf" and Americans use "muffler". Is this true? If someone whose birthday is in the beginning of autum, for example, said to you that he/she wanted a scarf, or muffler, for their birthday, would you have to ask, "You want the thick one for the winter, or the thinner one?"
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    a scarf and a muffler are two different things here in Japan
    Do you mean that you use these two English words in Japanese?

    My understanding (in BE) exactly matches the definition from the Collins Dictionary you mentioned. I don't hear people talking about "mufflers" nowadays, but perhaps the fashion-world has decided to revive it. A "scarf" may be light, but I think a "muffler" would be warmer. "A silk muffler":confused:
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    That holds true for me: “scarf” is the normal word I would use and “muffler” would be an old fashioned term for the same thing – a word my grandmother might have used – or an American word. I am not aware of any difference between them as objects.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I haven't seen 'muffler' for a long time. The ones both men and women wear in winter are distinguished as woollen scarves, woolly scarves, or knitted scarves. They're often tartan in pattern. The light ones women wear for fashion, often of silk with some pattern or effect such as batik or paisley, might be qualified in one of those ways: silk scarf, paisley scarf, etc. I can't think of a general term for them.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    A scarf can be worn around both the head or neck.
    And if it's brightly-coloured, with white spots perhaps, it should be called a bandana?

    The ones both men and women wear in winter are distinguished as woollen scarves, woolly scarves, or knitted scarves. They're often tartan in pattern. The light ones women wear for fashion, often of silk with some pattern or effect such as batik or paisley, might be qualified in one of those ways: silk scarf, paisley scarf, etc.
    So you distinguish the thick ones and thin ones like that. Good to know. :)
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    There are scarfs which are long and woolly to keep your neck warm. And there are scarfs that are square and thinner, designed to look attractive but not much use for keeping warm. The second type is sometimes called a head-scarf, a (head) square, or (more rarely) a foulard.

    Muffler is American and/or old-fashioned for the first type.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Hi, a scarf and a muffler are two different things here in Japan. People wear mufflers only when the weather is (very) cold, and scarfs are too thin to keep your neck warm in winter. I've checked some English dictionaries, including the ones on WR, and a couple of dicitonaries I have suggest that the term 'muffler' is just an old-fashioned version of 'scarf'.
    The meanings you use in Japan are normal American English to me. I lived in New England (cold, snowy) from the 1950s to 1990s. We used "muffler" for the cold-weather wrap, and "scarf" to mean both kinds: light silk squares or knitted wool rectangles.

    So some kinds of "scarves" were also "mufflers", but "muffler" was never used for the thin silk kind.

    Perhaps the word "muffler" has become old-fashioned in the last 18 years: I lived in CA for that time, and it never snows, so I would never hear the word. But "muffler" is not an old-fashioned word for all kinds of scarfs: only the mahura kind.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks all for the replies and the helpful info. I'll go with the trend and avoid using "muffler" (except when I want to refer to the car's part, which is called a silencer in BE).
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    And if it's brightly-coloured, with white spots perhaps, it should be called a bandana?
    I would only call it a bandanna if it was square and had a pattern like these:



    And for me the "normal" colour for a bandanna is red.

    I lived in New England (cold, snowy) from the 1950s to 1990s. We used "muffler" for the cold-weather wrap, and "scarf" to mean both kinds: light silk squares or knitted wool rectangles.
    I lived in the Midwest from the '50s to the early '80s. "Muffler" is a term I've seen in books -- we called both kinds scarves.


    And I think this thread is the first time I've run across scarfs....
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I would only call it a bandanna if it was square and had a pattern like these:

    And for me the "normal" colour for a bandanna is red.
    Yes, we too call them bandanas, and the most popular color is red. Also, I think bandanas are a little smaller than scarves.
     
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